TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 26

“Saturday Night Live Thanksgiing," 9-11 p.m., NBC.

For its 40th
season, “SNL” is piling up memories. That includes this special,
which debuted last year.

Flashing past us
were decades of quirky moments – Paul Simon in a turkey suit, Adam
Sandler singing “The Turkey Song,” Anna Gesteyer as Martha
Stewart, Christopher Guest as Ed Grimley's dad.

The clips ranged
from Dan Aukroyd to Will Ferrell, from Macauley Culkin to Gwyneth
Paltrow, plus several stars – John Belushi, Chris Farley, Brittany
Murphy, more – who are no longer around.

II: Movies, 8 p.m., CW and cable.

CW has the ideal
film to show on a holiday-eve travel day: John Hughes' “Planes,
Trains & Automobiles” (1987) has Steve Martin and John Candy
facing unending transportation woes.

Cable tops that, led
by the all-time classic “Gone With the Wind” (1939) on AMC.
There's the comedy gem “Tootsie” (1982) on TV Guide Network ...
action with “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012) on FX ... and drama
with Denzel Washington's Oscar-winning work in “Training Day”
(2001) on TNT.

“The Odd Squad” debut, times vary (check local listionngs), PBS.

Something goofy is
happening to a basketball team; special agents Olive and Otto
scramble for a solution, with lab help from Oscar. The result has a
smidgen of math information (mostly just what numbers add up to 13)
and a lot of fun. There are sight gags and likable young actors; we
especially enjoyed Millie Davis, 7, as the juicebox-guzzling boss,
Ms. O.

Each half-hour has
two such stories, sandwiched by quirky shorts. Many stations will
have the hour-long opener at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., then will air the
half-hour show at 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

Other choices

“Nature,” 8, 9
and 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). Here are three of the show's
lightest and most accessible episodes. They look at turkeys, ducks
and deer.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Many shows are retreating to reruns on this holiday eve,
but “Survivor” booms ahead. It's now at the halfway point, with
nine of the original 18 surviving.

“A Charlie Brown
Thanksgiving,” 8 p.m., ABC. An all-rerun night at ABC starts with
this 1973 cartoon, with the caterers (Snoopy and Woodstock) planning
a feast of toast and popcorn. The hour is rounded out by the
Mayflower segment of “This is America, Charlie Brown.”

“Cars 2” (2011),
8:30 p.m., ABC Family. Despite a few weak story twists – Mater ends
up in a spy plot – this is a fun film, ideal for families to catch
on a holiday eve.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. While Alex tours the Cal Tech campus, her father and
siblings take part in a psych experiment.

“Nashville,” 10
p.m., ABC. Rayna is determined to sign emerging star Sadie – played
by Laura Benanti, who knows music. She's done seven Broadway musicals
(winning a Tony in “Gypsy”) and was Elsa Schrader in last year's
“Sound of Music” on NBC.

“Blade Runner”
(1982), 10 p.m., Sundance. Here's yet one more terrific movie, this
one superbly directed by Ridley Scott. Harrison Ford plays a
futuristic detective, with great supporting roles for Daryl Hannah,
William Sanderson, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer and others.

TV column for Tuesday, Nov. 25

“Dancing With the Stars” finale, 9-11 p.m., ABC, with preview at

If you were betting
at the start of this week, you'd focus on the pros who are paired
with celebrities.

Derek Hough has won
five times; now (with Bethany Mota) he's chasing his third title in
four years. Mark Ballas won early championships with Olympians Shawn
Johnson and Kristi Yamaguchi; this time (with Sadie Robertson) is his
eighth in the final four. Valentin Chmerkovsky (with Janel Parrish)
hasn't won, but his brother Maksim did; Witney Carson (with Alfonso
Ribeiro) is only in her second try.

II: “New Girl,” 9 p.m., Fox.

Comedies tend to be
in top form with Thanksgiving episodes. Now here's this season's
final new one.

Naturally, Schmidt
has a fresh take on the holiday – each person bringing a date for
someone else. That notion can work wonderfully; three decades ago,
Sam and Diane gave each other hilarious “Cheers” dates. Now we
can look forward to some modern mismatching.

ALTERNATIVE: “Return to the Wild,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local

Growing up in a
financially comfortable (and emotinally difficult) family, Chris
McCandless was an athlete and an idealist. He graduated from Emory
University and, at 24, vowed to live alone in the Alaskan wilderness.
His body was found in an abandoned bus that explorers used for

That short life has
been the subject of a Jon Krakauer book, a Sean Penn-directed movie,
a documentary, several magazine articles and endless debates. Here's
another look, using fresh interviews and newly available letters from

Other choices

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. Just as many viewers fret about Thanksgiving travel, this show
gives us a double nightmare: Tony, Ellie and her husband (Jamie
Bamber of “Battlestar Galactica”) are grounded at an airport that
faces a heightened terrorist threat.

“A Night at the
Movies,” 8-9:30 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies. George Lucas
discusses the fantasy classics, from “King Kong” and “Wizard of
Oz” to “2001” and “Back to the Future.”

Animated films, 8
p.m., cable. As the holiday nears, families can watch together.
Disney has “WALL-E” (2008); FX has “Madagascar 3” (2012),
which it reruns at 10.

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. As the team prepares its annual Thanksgiving
dinner, it finds the re-emergence of a case that the medical examiner
(CCH Pounder) has studied for years. Dean Stockwell guests as the
councilman's dad, providing a “Quantum Leap” reunion with Scott

“Marry Me,” 9:01
p.m., NBC. Now that he's engaged to Annie, Jake figures he should
work harder at bonding with her parents. They're very different,
even though they're both guys named Kevin.

“About a Boy,”
9:30, NBC. Chris Diamantopoulos arrives as a handsome and charismatic
drama teacher. He casts Marcus as Romeo, appeals to his mom ... and
makes Will jealous.

“Jay Leno: The
Mark Twain Prize,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). If you
missed this terrific special Sunday, catch it now. It ripples with
great “Tonight Show” clips and with barbs from Leno's friends.
“Success didn't give him a swelled head,” Garth Brooks says.
“Nature did that.”

TV column for Monday, Nov. 24

“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

We're down to the
final four now, as the two-night finale begins. On Tuesday, we'll
have a winner.

Alfonso Ribeiro had
a big head start; he starred in Broadway's “Tap Dance Kid” at 12,
then danced with Michael Jackson in a popular commercial. Now –
after dancing last week while injured – he faces three young women:
Sadie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty,” actress Janel Parrish and
Internet star Bethany Mota, whose partner Derek Hough is already a
five-time champion.

II: “The Big Bang Theory,” 8:30 p.m., CBS.

In its first season,
“The Millers” overcame so-so scripts via two huge advantages –
TV's best comedy director (James Burrows) and a cozy Thursday slot
behind “Big Bang.”

This year, moved
away from that slot, it quickly crashed. Now it's been cancelled,
with “Mike & Molly” returning to Mondays next week. Filling
the slot tonight is a rerun of the “Big Bang” season-opener; it's
a funny one, with Leonard and Amy on a road trip to retrieve the
runaway Sheldon.

ALTERNATIVE: “Booze Traveler,” 10-11 p.m., Travel; or “Chug,”
10:30, National Geographic.

We kind of expected
Thanksgiving Week shows to focus on food or ... well, thanks.
Instead, cable networks debut two similar and moderately entertaining
shows about alcohol.

“Chug” goes to
Kuala Lumpur, where people don't ask what year a bottle is from; they
can climb trees, pick a naturally fermented fruit and soon drink it.
In “Traveler,” Jack Maxwell sees Turkey's mixed attitude toward
alcohol. Its founding father (Mustafa Ataturk) savored it, he says,
and died at 57 of cirrhosis of the liver. Now politicians ban
advertising it ... yet Istanbul consumes a billion liters a year.

Other choices

“The Voice,”
8-10 p.m., NBC. The top 10 perform and viewers vote; on Tuesday, two
will be ousted.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. Young Bruce Wayne (the future Batman) is becoming more
prominent in the show. Tonight, he and Selina (the future Catwoman)
are hiding from killers.

“Jane the Virgin,”
9 p.m., CW. The jaunty fun of the early episodes is gone now, but
this remains an appealing drama with likable characters. Now Jane has
broken up with her fiance and kissed her boss ... whose estranged
wife has many problems – including a gagged Czech hit man in her

Crowd Control”
debut, 9 and 9:30 p.m., National Geographic. Each year, Daniel Pink
says, 13,000 people are killed while speedinerg, 6,000 are killed
while jaywalking. He toys with possible solutions, from cash rewards
for slow drivers to stark signs (“Be late, not dead”) and
game-playing diversions at intersections. He also tries to prevent
misuse of special parking spaces by mounting photos of the disabled.
Some notions succeed, some fail thoroughly, most are fairly

“State of
Affairs,” 10 p.m., NBC. A stranded Russian submarine holds six
months of stolen American secrets. Now Charleston (Katherine Heigl)
leads the rush to get it ... while distracted by her mysterious
texter and by the new secretary of state (Nestor Carbonell).

“Eric Greenspan is
Hungry,” 10 p.m., National Geographic. Joining the chase for a wild
hog, Greenspan soon learns an important self-truth: “I'm not a
runner.” He does however, enjoy the backwoods friendship afterward,
in a so-so follow-up to the channel's terrific “Eat” mini-series.

“Castle,” 10:01
p.m., ABC. Esposito is among the subway passengers taken hostage. Now
Beckett must figure out the guman's motive.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 23

“Jay Leno: The Mark Twain Prize,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local

Here's a 90-minute
burst of big laughs. Leno closes it wittily. First, others offer
their own comedy bits (Jerry Seinfeld's postal routine is
brilliiant), introduce “Tonight Show” clips and point barbs at

This is someone who
still works constantly, Al Madrigal says, “because $200 million in
the bank just isn't enough.” There was that one misfire: “I just
hope PBS runs this at 11 p.m.,” Garth Brooks says, “because it's
proven no one will watch Jay at 10.” After that lone failure, Jimmy
Fallon reminds us, the network dropped Leno: “He did so much for
NBC that we have to celebrate his career on PBS.”

II: “American Music Awards,” 8-11 p.m., ABC..

Most of
the night will ripple with young pop stars. There's Taylor Swift, One
Direction, Lorde, Ariana Grande, Jesse J, Charlie XCX, Sam Smith,
Imagine Dragons, Magic and 5 Seconds of Summer.

the veterans have their moments. Garth Brooks – who won and refused
the AMA's top award back in 1996 – will be shown performing in
North Carolina, on his first tour in 13 years. Jennifer Lopez will
perform “Booty” with Iggy Azalea (who leads with six
nominations). Also performing are Pitbull (who hosts), Mary J. Blige,
Fergie, Wyclef Jean and more.

ALTERNATIVE: “The Newsroom,” 9 p.m., HBO.

all his blistering rants, we sometimes forget that writer-producer
Aaron Sorkin also creates great comedy dialog. That's on full display
early, as the FBI invades the newsroom and as a young reporter
(Alison Pill) spars with her editor (John Gallagher Jr.).

things turn dead-serious. The news network's future is wobbling ....
An official delivers a scary global-warming warning .... And there's
the shabby new notion of journalists amping up stories, because they
get bonuses for more page hits. The laughs fade; no one rants as well
as Sorkin.

choices include:

carpet, 6-8 p.m., E. Stars look pretty for the American Music Awards.

in Palm Springs,” 7 and 9 p.m., UP. Here's your standard tale of
kids trying to get their parents (Patrick Muldoon and Dina Meyer)
back together at Christmastime. Alas, she's instantly unlikable, he's
intermittenly jerk-ish and it becomes hard to root for them.

the Grinch Stole Christmas” (7:30 p.m.) and “The Wizard of Oz”
(1939, 8 and 10:15 p.m.), TBS. On an already-packed night, TBS reruns
two of the all-time greats for kids or grown-ups.

Secretary,” 8:01 p.m., CBS. With a gunman outside, everyone is in
lockdown. That includes a translator who could divulge a secret about
Elizabeth; it also includes Daisy's fiance, played by Sam Daly –
the son of Tim Daly (who plays Elizabeth's husband), grandson of John
and nephew of Tyne.

Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS. The season started with Cary arrested and
assuming he would be freed quickly. Now, instead, his drug trial
begins, alongside a possible plea bargain and jail time.

Comeback,” 10 p.m., HBO. The central character (Lisa Kudrow)
continues to be way too one-note. At times tonight, the monotone is
broken up by some sly moments from Seth Rogan (who plays her
colleague) and by a rather extreme burst of HBO-style nudity.

On,” 10:30, HBO. This muted comedy-drama has one of its best nights
on both sides. The comedy comes when the hospital's computer system
fails; the drama centers on Dawn (Alex Borstein).

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 22

MUST-SEE: “Hunger Games” or “Twilight” films, cable.

On the
weekend when “Mockingjay” (the first half of the “Hunger Games”
finale) opens, we can sample films from two series. Both turned youth
novels into mega-movies.

original “Hunger Games” (2012) is 8 p.m. on ABC Family, with a
teen (the terrific Jennifer Lawrence) taking her sister's place in a
deadly competition. Also, both halves of the “Twilight” finale
run in inconvenient order – the first (2011) at 8 p.m. on FXX, the
second (2012) at 7 on Showtime.

MIGHT-SEE: “State of Affairs,” 9 p.m., NBC,

Yes, we
grumbled about this season-opener, with its absurd plot twists. But
that was on a Monday, when there were better (much better) shows. On
a weak Saturday, this is worth trying.

Heigl is terrific as a CIA analyst who prepares a daily briefing for
the president (Alfre Woodard), the mother of her late fiance. Sleekly
filmed, this briskly zips us over (almost) its plot woes.

ALTERNATIVE: Christmas films, 8-10 p.m., cable.

film sticks close to real life. “An En Vogue Christmas”
(Lifetime) has members of the pop group playing themselves,
ree-uniting for a concert to save the club where they first caught

other goes for fantasy. “A Royal Christmas” (Hallmark), a fairly
adequate film, sees a Philadelphia tailor and designer (Lacey
Chabert) suddenly learn that her boyfriend is prince of Cordinia. His
mom (Jane Seymour) wants him to marry nobility (Katherine Flynn,
Seymour's daughter).

choices include:

The Story of Food,” 7-11 p.m., National Geographic. First is a
rerun of Friday's excellent opener, viewing “food revolutionaries,”
from explorers to Julia Childs and Clarence Birdseye. Then the new
hours view our passion for sugar (9 p.m.) and seafood (10); those
repeat at 11 p.m. and midnight.

7:30 p.m. ET, Fox; and 8 p.m. ET, ABC. Fox has Baylor (ranked No. 7)
hosting Oklahoma State; ABC has UCLA (No. 11) hosting Southern

Missing,” 7:55 and 9 p.m., Starz. First is a rerun of last week's
gripping opener, as a former husband and wife (James Nesbitt and
Frances O'Conner) take opposite approaches, eight years after their
son disappeared. Then comes another well-crafted hour, rerunning at
10:05. The dad desperately tries to kick open the case, now that he
has a hint of where his son was first taken.

8 p.m., CBS. Here's a rerun of the episode that doubled as a pilot
for “NCIS: New Orleans,” with a congressman's body found in New
Orleans. It's a good episode, but be wary: It's the start of a
two-parter, with no plans (yet) to rerun the second half.

Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, a reporter announces the
group responsible for a bombing at a charity event.

on Wheels,” 9 p.m., AMC. The season concludes with the railroad
leaving Cheyenne and Cullen returning to the fort to retrieve his

Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC. Cameron Diaz hosts, with Mark Ronson
and Bruno Mars as music guests.